Poetry Sunday: “On Marriage,” by Meghan O’Rourke

On Marriage

Stone by stone, body by body in the grass:
For this we trade our lone compass,

Become swans instead, adrift in glaze-
Light, kilned in the arms of each other

Into vessel-vassal new. Or shrew,
As the case may be. What would you do?

Listen to the footsteps in the thistles.
Put the kettle on for tea, and whisper it to me.


From Once, by Meghan O’Rourke. Copyright © 2013 by Meghan O’Rourke. With permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. First published in Poetry.

Once is available for order here and here.

Read a review of Once here and interviews with the author here and here. Listen to the author reading her poems here.


Meghan O’Rourke, a poet and nonfiction writer, is the author of the poetry collections Sun In Days (named a Best Poetry Book of 2017 by The New York Times), Once, and Halflife, as well as the bestselling memoir The Long Goodbye. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and other awards, she writes for The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, and others, and is the editor of The Yale Review.


Poet’s Note

I wrote this poem while thinking about the way that marriage is a form, not unlike a poem, which demands certain kinds of commitments (and identities) from us and in turn shapes us in response to our commitment to it. So I played around with couplets as a form that would evoke and enact that restriction—and opportunity.



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